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Canada’s Biggest Fossil Fuel Proponents Make Their Case at Climate Conference

The idea that fossil fuels have a long-term future in the global economy is one that is anathema to

Canada’s Biggest Fossil Fuel Proponents Make Their Case at Climate Conference


The idea that fossil fuels have a long-term future in the global economy is one that is anathema to the many environmentalists attending the U.N. climate summit being hosted by the United Arab Emirates. But to two Canadian premiers who are also attending, the idea is gospel, and the conference is an ideal place to mint converts.

Danielle Smith, the premier of Alberta, and Scott Moe, her counterpart in Saskatchewan, are participating in the meetings with the aim of promoting continued development of oil and gas. And they were joined by a large contingent of oil and gas industry representatives from Canada. According to Environmental Defence, which is based in Toronto, an estimated 35 people affiliated with the fossil fuel industry were part of Canada’s delegation, all of them included by Alberta.

The participation of fossil fuel proponents in the climate summit and its location in the United Arab Emirates — a country whose economy is almost entirely based on selling fossil fuels — has raised doubts about the credibility of the negotiations, my colleague Vivian Nereim reported.

A leaked internal document also showed that the Emirates had another goal for the meeting: to advance oil and gas deals around the world.

[Read: Files Suggest Climate Summit’s Leader Is Using Event to Promote Fossil Fuels]

Then a video surfaced showing Sultan Al Jaber, the Emirati oil executive who is leading the conference, saying there was “no science” supporting the idea that fossil fuels must be phased out to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels — the point beyond which scientists say the effects of global warming will become overwhelming.

[Read: Climate Summit Leader Tries to Calm Uproar Over a Remark on Fossil Fuels]

Mr. Al Jaber was defiant and suggested in a news conference that he hadn’t said what the video captured.

It’s too early to say whether the agreement that scientists, environmentalists and dozens of world leaders are pushing for — one that would lead to a rapid reduction in oil production — will actually come together.

[Read: It’s Big Oil vs. Science at the U.N. Climate Summit]

The conference, being held at the end of the hottest year in recorded history, doesn’t end until Tuesday.

But those calling for the final text to include unambiguous language rapidly phasing out fossil fuels may be disappointed. Under U.N. rules, any one of the 170 countries at the meeting can scuttle any agreement. The Gulf States, among others, have said that they will not accept any call for an end to the industry that has brought them outsized wealth.

Back in Ottawa on Thursday, the federal government unveiled a key component of its climate plan for the oil and gas industry, which is the country’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement made Canada the first major oil and gas producer to put a cap on emissions from the segment.

Under the government’s plan, the energy sector will get a break from requirements that it cut emissions relative to other industries. Canada’s overall climate target calls for reductions, by 2030, of 40 percent to 45 percent below 2005 levels. The oil and gas industry, however, will only have to end up at 35 percent to 38 percent below 2019 levels by the same deadline. Companies that do not meet those reductions will be able to buy offsets from industries that have cut output.

While most environmentalists praised the cap, many want the final version of the regulations to include more reductions, and not all agree with allowing companies to buy their way out of reductions.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an industry lobby group, declared that the emissions cap was “effectively a cap on production,” something Ms. Smith and Mr. Moe have long vowed to block. The federal government estimates that oil and gas companies will be able to increase production by 12 percent and still meet the emission targets.

Ms. Smith and Mr. Moe, emboldened by recent court setbacks for some federal environmental laws, said in statements that they would fight the system in the courts as an unconstitutional intrusion into provincial jurisdiction.

“Justin Trudeau and his eco-extremist minister of the environment and climate change, Steven Guilbeault, are risking hundreds of billions of investments in Alberta’s and Canada’s economy,” Ms. Smith said. (Ms. Smith’s United Conservative Party has not followed through on a promise to strike down a provincial law introduced by the previous New Democratic Party government that caps emissions from oil sands.)

Perhaps a greater potential threat to the cap, however, is time. Mr. Trudeau first promised the cap two years ago during the election process. It won’t take effect until 2026 at the earliest. That would be after the next federal vote, which may not be favorable to his Liberal party.

If the Conservatives under Pierre Poilievre take power after that election, few doubt that Mr. Poilievre will kill the energy industry emissions cap. And indeed, not long after the government’s announcement, Mr. Poilievre triggered a series of votes that lasted through the night. He vowed to keep the House of Commons tied up with them through Christmas unless Mr. Trudeau eliminated some carbon taxes.


  • My colleague Norimitsu Onishi traveled to Markham, Ontario, to explore fears of interference by China in Canadian elections.

  • Nothing is off limits, not even old cigarette butts, for Jason Logan in Toronto when it comes to materials to create the inks he sells to artists and illustrators worldwide.

  • In the Opinion section of The Times, Julia Angwin writes that “publishers are fighting Big Tech over peanuts — hundreds of millions of dollars — when they could well be owed billions. That’s why Google fought so hard in Canada: It succeeded in setting the bar extremely low for global payments for news.”

  • Also in Opinion, Sougwen Chung, an artist who born in Canada and raised in China, discusses how she collaborates with artificial intelligence and a robot in creating her works.

  • Agnes Chow, a well-known pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong who was arrested as part of a sweeping crackdown, has fled to safety in Canada.

  • Elisabeth Egan writes that among the most moving and memorable sections in the new 512-page memoir by Geddy Lee, the lead singer of Rush, are photos of his family members when they were in a displaced persons camp at Bergen-Belsen.

  • Myles Goodwyn, a singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Canadian arena rockers April Wine, died in Halifax. He was 75.

  • Spotify has canceled two acclaimed podcasts by Canadians as it continues to lay off employees in a quest for profits. Gone are “Heavyweight,” which was hosted by Jonathan Goldstein for seven seasons, and “Stolen,” which received the Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting this year. Created by Connie Walker, it is an investigation into the experiences of Indigenous children in Canada’s residential school system, including her father.

  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have filed terrorism and hate crime charges against two men they say assisted neo-Nazi groups.

  • Once set free of their bowls and let loose in the Great Lakes, goldfish can grow into oversized monsters and destroy the habitats of native species. Work by Canadian researchers could guide a cull.

  • In the first of a series of articles about modern artificial intelligence, Cade Metz, Karen Weise, Nico Grant and Mike Isaac described the multimillion-dollar auction a decade ago to control the pioneering work in the field being performed at the University of Toronto under Geoffrey Hinton.


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for two decades.


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